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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 10)


Mr. Tupman had no objection to earning the reputation at socheap a rate: so he looked very knowing, and smiled mysteriously.

'What a sarcastic smile,' said the admiring Rachael; 'I declareI'm quite afraid of you.'

'Afraid of me!'

'Oh, you can't disguise anything from me--I know what thatsmile means very well.'

'What?' said Mr. Tupman, who had not the slightest notion himself.

'You mean,' said the amiable aunt, sinking her voice stilllower--'you mean, that you don't think Isabella's stooping is asbad as Emily's boldness. Well, she is bold! You cannot think howwretched it makes me sometimes--I'm sure I cry about it forhours together--my dear brother is SO good, and so unsuspicious,that he never sees it; if he did, I'm quite certain it would breakhis heart. I wish I could think it was only manner--I hope it maybe--' (Here the affectionate relative heaved a deep sigh, andshook her head despondingly).

'I'm sure aunt's talking about us,' whispered Miss EmilyWardle to her sister--'I'm quite certain of it--she looks so malicious.'

'Is she?' replied Isabella.--'Hem! aunt, dear!'

'Yes, my dear love!'

'I'm SO afraid you'll catch cold, aunt--have a silk handkerchiefto tie round your dear old head--you really should take care ofyourself--consider your age!'

However well deserved this piece of retaliation might havebeen, it was as vindictive a one as could well have been resortedto. There is no guessing in what form of reply the aunt's indignationwould have vented itself, had not Mr. Wardle unconsciously changedthe subject, by calling emphatically for Joe.

'Damn that boy,' said the old gentleman, 'he's gone to sleep again.'

'Very extraordinary boy, that,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'does healways sleep in this way?'

'Sleep!' said the old gentleman, 'he's always asleep. Goes onerrands fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table.'

'How very odd!' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Ah! odd indeed,' returned the old gentleman; 'I'm proud ofthat boy--wouldn't part with him on any account--he's anatural curiosity! Here, Joe--Joe--take these things away, andopen another bottle--d'ye hear?'

The fat boy rose, opened his eyes, swallowed the huge piece ofpie he had been in the act of masticating when he last fell asleep,and slowly obeyed his master's orders--gloating languidly overthe remains of the feast, as he removed the plates, and depositedthem in the hamper. The fresh bottle was produced, and speedilyemptied: the hamper was made fast in its old place--the fatboy once more mounted the box--the spectacles and pocket-glass were again adjusted--and the evolutions of the militaryrecommenced. There was a great fizzing and banging ofguns, and starting of ladies--and then a Mine was sprung, tothe gratification of everybody--and when the mine had goneoff, the military and the company followed its example, andwent off too.

'Now, mind,' said the old gentleman, as he shook hands withMr. Pickwick at the conclusion of a conversation which had beencarried on at intervals, during the conclusion of the proceedings,"we shall see you all to-morrow.'

'Most certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick.

'You have got the address?'

'Manor Farm, Dingley Dell,' said Mr. Pickwick, consulting hispocket-book.'That's it,' said the old gentleman. 'I don't let you off, mind,under a week; and undertake that you shall see everything worthseeing. If you've come down for a country life, come to me, andI'll give you plenty of it. Joe--damn that boy, he's gone to sleepagain--Joe, help Tom put in the horses.'

The horses were put in--the driver mounted--the fatboy clambered up by his side--farewells were exchanged--and the carriage rattled off. As the Pickwickians turned roundto take a last glimpse of it, the setting sun cast a rich glow onthe faces of their entertainers, and fell upon the form of thefat boy. His head was sunk upon his bosom; and he slumbered again.

CHAPTER VA SHORT ONE--SHOWING, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, HOWMr. PICKWICK UNDERTOOK TO DRIVE, AND Mr. WINKLETO RIDE, AND HOW THEY BOTH DID IT

Bright and pleasant was the sky, balmy the air, and beautifulthe appearance of every object around, as Mr. Pickwick leanedover the balustrades of Rochester Bridge, contemplating nature,and waiting for breakfast. The scene was indeed one which mightwell have charmed a far less reflective mind, than that to whichit was presented.

On the left of the spectator lay the ruined wall, broken in manyplaces, and in some, overhanging the narrow beach below in rudeand heavy masses. Huge knots of seaweed hung upon the jaggedand pointed stones, trembling in every breath of wind; and thegreen ivy clung mournfully round the dark and ruined battlements.Behind it rose the ancient castle, its towers roofless, andits massive walls crumbling away, but telling us proudly of its oldmight and strength, as when, seven hundred years ago, it rangwith the clash of arms, or resounded with the noise of feastingand revelry. On either side, the banks of the Medway, coveredwith cornfields and pastures, with here and there a windmill, or adistant church, stretched away as far as the eye could see,presenting a rich and varied landscape, rendered more beautifulby the changing shadows which passed swiftly across it as thethin and half-formed clouds skimmed away in the light of themorning sun. The river, reflecting the clear blue of the sky,glistened and sparkled as it flowed noiselessly on; and the oars ofthe fishermen dipped into the water with a clear and liquid sound,as their heavy but picturesque boats glided slowly down the stream.

Mr. Pickwick was roused from the agreeable reverie into whichhe had been led by the objects before him, by a deep sigh, and atouch on his shoulder. He turned round: and the dismal man wasat his side.

'Contemplating the scene?' inquired the dismal man.'I was,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'And congratulating yourself on being up so soon?'

Mr. Pickwick nodded assent.

'Ah! people need to rise early, to see the sun in all his splendour,for his brightness seldom lasts the day through. Themorning of day and the morning of life are but too much alike.'

'You speak truly, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'How common the saying,' continued the dismal man, '"Themorning's too fine to last." How well might it be applied to oureveryday existence. God! what would I forfeit to have the days ofmy childhood restored, or to be able to forget them for ever!'

'You have seen much trouble, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick compassionately.

'I have,' said the dismal man hurriedly; 'I have. More thanthose who see me now would believe possible.' He paused for aninstant, and then said abruptly--

'Did it ever strike you, on such a morning as this, that drowningwould be happiness and peace?'

'God bless me, no!' replied Mr. Pickwick, edging a little fromthe balustrade, as the possibility of the dismal man's tipping himover, by way of experiment, occurred to him rather forcibly.

'I have thought so, often,' said the dismal man, withoutnoticing the action. 'The calm, cool water seems to me to murmuran invitation to repose and rest. A bound, a splash, a briefstruggle; there is an eddy for an instant, it gradually subsides intoa gentle ripple; the waters have closed above your head, and theworld has closed upon your miseries and misfortunes for ever.'The sunken eye of the dismal man flashed brightly as he spoke,but the momentary excitement quickly subsided; and he turnedcalmly away, as he said--

'There--enough of that. I wish to see you on another subject.You invited me to read that paper, the night before last, andlistened attentively while I did so.''I did,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'and I certainly thought--'

'I asked for no opinion,' said the dismal man, interrupting him,'and I want none. You are travelling for amusement and instruction.Suppose I forward you a curious manuscript--observe, notcurious because wild or improbable, but curious as a leaf fromthe romance of real life--would you communicate it to the club,of which you have spoken so frequently?'

'Certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'if you wished it; and itwould be entered on their transactions.''You shall have it,' replied the dismal man. 'Your address;'and, Mr. Pickwick having communicated their probable route, thedismal man carefully noted it down in a greasy pocket-book,and, resisting Mr. Pickwick's pressing invitation to breakfast,left that gentleman at his inn, and walked slowly away.

Mr. Pickwick found that his three companions had risen, andwere waiting his arrival to commence breakfast, which was readylaid in tempting display. They sat down to the meal; and broiledham, eggs, tea, coffee and sundries, began to disappear with arapidity which at once bore testimony to the excellence of thefare, and the appetites of its consumers.

'Now, about Manor Farm,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'How shall we go ?'

'We had better consult the waiter, perhaps,' said Mr. Tupman;and the waiter was summoned accordingly.

'Dingley Dell, gentlemen--fifteen miles, gentlemen--crossroad--post-chaise, sir?'

'Post-chaise won't hold more than two,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'True, sir--beg your pardon, sir.--Very nice four-wheel chaise,sir--seat for two behind--one in front for the gentleman thatdrives--oh! beg your pardon, sir--that'll only hold three.'

'What's to be done?' said Mr. Snodgrass.

'Perhaps one of the gentlemen would like to ride, sir?' suggestedthe waiter, looking towards Mr. Winkle; 'very goodsaddle-horses, sir--any of Mr. Wardle's men coming to Rochester,bring 'em back, Sir.'

'The very thing,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Winkle, will you go onhorseback ?'

Now Mr. Winkle did entertain considerable misgivings in thevery lowest recesses of his own heart, relative to his equestrianskill; but, as he would not have them even suspected, on anyaccount, he at once replied with great hardihood, 'Certainly. Ishould enjoy it of all things.'Mr. Winkle had rushed upon his fate; there was no resource.'Let them be at the door by eleven,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Very well, sir,' replied the waiter.

The waiter retired; the breakfast concluded; and the travellersascended to their respective bedrooms, to prepare a change ofclothing, to take with them on their approaching expedition.

Mr. Pickwick had made his preliminary arrangements, andwas looking over the coffee-room blinds at the passengersin the street, when the waiter entered, and announced thatthe chaise was ready--an announcement which the vehicle itselfconfirmed, by forthwith appearing before the coffee-room blindsaforesaid.

It was a curious little green box on four wheels, with a lowplace like a wine-bin for two behind, and an elevated perch forone in front, drawn by an immense brown horse, displayinggreat symmetry of bone. An hostler stood near, holding by thebridle another immense horse--apparently a near relative of theanimal in the chaise--ready saddled for Mr. Winkle.

'Bless my soul!' said Mr. Pickwick, as they stood upon thepavement while the coats were being put in. 'Bless my soul! who'sto drive? I never thought of that.'

'Oh! you, of course,' said Mr. Tupman.

'Of course,' said Mr. Snodgrass.

'I!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

'Not the slightest fear, Sir,' interposed the hostler. 'Warranthim quiet, Sir; a hinfant in arms might drive him.'

'He don't shy, does he?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.

'Shy, sir?-he wouldn't shy if he was to meet a vagin-load ofmonkeys with their tails burned off.'

The last recommendation was indisputable. Mr. Tupman andMr. Snodgrass got into the bin; Mr. Pickwick ascended to hisperch, and deposited his feet on a floor-clothed shelf, erectedbeneath it for that purpose.

'Now, shiny Villiam,' said the hostler to the deputy hostler,'give the gen'lm'n the ribbons.' 'Shiny Villiam'--so called,probably, from his sleek hair and oily countenance--placed thereins in Mr. Pickwick's left hand; and the upper hostler thrust awhip into his right.

'Wo-o!' cried Mr. Pickwick, as the tall quadruped evinced adecided inclination to back into the coffee-room window.'Wo-o!' echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass, from the bin.'Only his playfulness, gen'lm'n,' said the head hostlerencouragingly; 'jist kitch hold on him, Villiam.' The deputyrestrained the animal's impetuosity, and the principal ran toassist Mr. Winkle in mounting.

'T'other side, sir, if you please.'

'Blowed if the gen'lm'n worn't a-gettin' up on the wrong side,'whispered a grinning post-boy to the inexpressibly gratified waiter.

Mr. Winkle, thus instructed, climbed into his saddle, withabout as much difficulty as he would have experienced in gettingup the side of a first-rate man-of-war.

'All right?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, with an inward presentimentthat it was all wrong.

'All right,' replied Mr. Winkle faintly.

'Let 'em go,' cried the hostler.--'Hold him in, sir;' and awaywent the chaise, and the saddle-horse, with Mr. Pickwick on thebox of the one, and Mr. Winkle on the back of the other, to thedelight and gratification of the whole inn-yard.

'What makes him go sideways?' said Mr. Snodgrass in the bin,to Mr. Winkle in the saddle.

'I can't imagine,' replied Mr. Winkle. His horse was driftingup the street in the most mysterious manner--side first, withhis head towards one side of the way, and his tail towards the other.

Mr. Pickwick had no leisure to observe either this or any otherparticular, the whole of his faculties being concentrated in themanagement of the animal attached to the chaise, who displayedvarious peculiarities, highly interesting to a bystander, but by nomeans equally amusing to any one seated behind him. Besidesconstantly jerking his head up, in a very unpleasant and uncomfortablemanner, and tugging at the reins to an extent whichrendered it a matter of great difficulty for Mr. Pickwick to holdthem, he had a singular propensity for darting suddenly everynow and then to the side of the road, then stopping short, andthen rushing forward for some minutes, at a speed which it waswholly impossible to control.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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